Council backs off housing issues
Porirua City councillors last week backed off becoming involved in rental housing problems, insisting it was the Government’s job.
The councillors reviewed their stance on poor-quality rental housing and associated health problems at their Te Komiti meeting last Thursday.
In Porirua, 18 per cent of the 16,881 homes are private rentals and 13 per cent is social housing.
Te Komiti chairman Euon Murrell said it was too easy to blame councils for sub-standard housing when the Government should be legislating and policing it.
Councils taking action would stretch already tight budgets.
Mana MP Kris Faafoi had requested the council draft a bill for him to present to Parliament, but the council declined, citing the high costs and low likelihood of success.
It also shied away from a bylaw, feeling it might be open to a legal challenge.
‘‘I have been in these homes and was shocked at the disgraceful condition people live in, many under private landlords,’’ Murrell said. ‘‘The Government needs to take control of this or give us better powers, without the huge costs.’’
He said he was appalled to dis- cover how high the bar was for a home to be deemed unsafe under the Health Act, which councils could use to tackle landlords.
Porirua mayor Nick Leggett said a local bill would have been a ‘‘fishing expedition’’ and a bylaw would use 11 council staff and 3 per cent of rates.
‘‘The best thing we can do is to be the megaphone for our community on this issue, and work with politicians. The Government needs to set the standards.’’
Leggett said he would meet the housing and health ministers to request tougher legislation for rental properties.
Faafoi was unfazed by the council decision.
‘‘There are many avenues we can go down and I have a Member’s Bill ready,’’ he said.
‘‘Something needs to change, whether it’s by council or by us.’’
‘‘I ... was shocked at the disgraceful condition people live in, many under private landlords,’’ Te Komiti chairman Euon Murrell
Liz Kelly is nervous about the huge step her organisation has made, but says it is well prepared.
The Porirua Whanau Centre announced last week it was becoming a social housing provider, having bought 13 properties in Tawa from a private landlord.
Kelly, the centre chief executive, said it was a bold, but natural move – the organisation already ran a childcare centre, looked after elderly, and ran counselling, youth and social work programmes from its base in Cannons Creek.
All the services could be wrapped around each other, she said.
The Whanau Centre made an unsuccessful bid to take over the management of the Moana Court flats in Titahi Bay from Porirua City Council some years ago, so the wish to get into housing was not new, Kelly said.
‘‘We know there is a need for more social housing in Porirua, because of the overcrowding issues we see every day,’’ she said.
‘‘This is something we’ve been looking at for a while.
‘‘It’s about finding a solution for a lot of the families we have contact with.
‘‘We think this is also a way to resolve some of the issues they’re facing.’’
She felt with housing sorted, those people would be better able to find employment.
Most of the 13 properties have tenants, who have been advised of the change in ownership.
If any became vacant, Whanau Centre clients would get the opportunity to move in and there might also be the chance to buy the homes down the track, Kelly said.
The plan was to increase the centre’s property portfolio over the next decade, she said, but baby steps were needed right now.
She was confident the Whanau Centre becoming a landlord would benefit Porirua, socially and economically.
‘‘It’s exciting and the timing is right. I’m nervous, but we’re not doing this willy-nilly – there has been a lot of preparation, background work and developing tenancy management.
‘‘It’s not easy and we want to make sure we’re doing it right.’’